Basil is a culinary staple. A versatile family of herbs, it offers a wide range of nuanced flavor profiles that can be used to liven up almost any type of dish. That is only half the story. As wonderful as basil is when used in food, it is an equal standout in beverages.
Teas, cocktails, and other drinks can all benefit from the sweet licorice flavor of basil, and hot or cold, they are an excellent way to gain the health benefits that basil offers.
In this guide, we look at:
- The best basil for tea, drinks & cocktails.
- How much dried basil to use in making tea?
- Can you boil basil leaves and drink?
- Is drinking basil water good for you?
What’s the best basil for tea?
You can use any member of the basil family to make tea. The best basil for tea depends on why you are drinking it.
If you are drinking basil tea purely for enjoying its refreshing flavor, then lighter, milder varieties like:
- Sweet Basil
- Lemon Basil
- Lime Basil
- Cinnamon Basil
- Christmas Basil
Any of these varieties can be added to your favorite teas for a flavor boost. You can also boil them alone and sweeten them to taste. You’ll find each type brings a little something new to the table.
If you are drinking basil tea for health purposes, some of the more pungent varieties like Holy Basil, Purple Ruffle, and Dark Opal have a slight edge. They are higher in some nutrients and contain more of the antioxidant anthocyanin.
Anthocyanin fights free radicals and is purported to aid in managing a vast array of ailments.
What’s the best basil for drinks?
Drinks differ from cocktails in that a drink is any mixed alcoholic beverage. According to mixologists, a cocktail must involve ice, fruit juice, a sweet element, and a bitter. Thus any cocktail is a drink, but not all drinks qualify as a cocktail.
Drinks being a much broader category, the only limit to basil use in them is your palate and imagination. Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey pairs deliciously with some of the more savory varieties of basil. Sweet Basil, Genovese, or even Greek Basil being excellent candidates.
If you are a whiskey/cola-type, just shred the leaves into your glass and allow them to soak for a few minutes. Lime Basil, muddled into tequila, takes shots to a whole new level.
Almost the entire basil family’s semi-sweet, anise-like flavor matches well with juniper-infused gin. From Holy Basil to Baby Sweet, practically any type of basil can simply be added to a standard mix or even gin served neat.
There are over 150 varieties of basil to work with. Unnumbered types of spirits are produced globally, and new ones are constantly being developed. The best advice that can be offered with complete honesty is to mix, sample, and try another. This is one of the most enjoyable forms of recipe development.
What’s the best basil for cocktails?
Basil can be used in many of the different elements that make up a cocktail. Fresh leaves can be muddled or used as a garnish. You can create basil-flavored simple syrups to use as a sweetener, and you can even infuse the spirits themselves with basil.
This breadth of uses and the massive number of basil and spirit types make it almost impossible to pick just one or two kinds of basil best for cocktails. Personal experimentation is the best possible solution to finding what works best for you.
There are, however, some general recommendations that can be made.
- Stick with tried and true flavor combinations. Rum and tequila both have been found to play well with citrus flavors. If you’re developing a rum or tequila cocktail, then Lemon or Lime Basil would be logical varieties to try first.
- Avoid the more pungent basil types like Purple Bush, Tulsi, or Holy Basil. They can be very dominating and make it challenging to achieve a balanced drink.
- Barrel-aged spirits are naturally savory, with wood and char notes evident. Tennessee whiskies, bourbons, Irish whiskies, and such will pair best with spicy types of basil. Sweet basil is king in whiskey cocktails, with Italian Large Leaf running a close second and even spicy Thai making a good showing.
- Gin with its juniper flavor will go with almost any culinary basil. The only boundary with gin and basil is your palate. Let your inhibitions run wild.
How much dried basil do I use for tea?
Basil tea made from dried leaves is a refreshing, flavorful alternative to caffeinated hot beverages. It is highly nutritious and offers many documented health benefits. When making basil tea with dried basil ¾ tablespoon of dried basil per cup of water is generally an excellent starting point.
When preparing, remember not to boil the basil as this destroys much of its nutrition. Instead, pour hot water over the dried basil and allow it to steep to taste. As to how much dried basil you should use for tea. A tea ball, tea screen, or reusable tea bag is convenient.
Can I Boil basil leaves and drink?
Yes, you can boil basil leaves and drink the resulting tea. However, Boiling removes up to 50% of basil’s vitamin C content along with many of its volatile oils. A better practice is to pour boiling water over the leaves and allow them to steep.
Is drinking basil water good for you?
Drinking basil water can be excellent for your overall health. Basil is very nutritious and loaded with antioxidants. Of particular note are high levels of Vitamins A, and K that may help in fighting cancer, and maintaining a healthy immune system.